Search Images Maps Play YouTube News Gmail Drive More »
Sign in
Screen reader users: click this link for accessible mode. Accessible mode has the same essential features but works better with your reader.

Patents

  1. Advanced Patent Search
Publication numberUS4909126 A
Publication typeGrant
Application numberUS 07/296,494
Publication dateMar 20, 1990
Filing dateJan 12, 1989
Priority dateDec 4, 1987
Fee statusPaid
Publication number07296494, 296494, US 4909126 A, US 4909126A, US-A-4909126, US4909126 A, US4909126A
InventorsNeil C. Skinn, Stephen J. Freeland
Original AssigneeTransperformance, Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Automatic musical instrument tuning system
US 4909126 A
Abstract
A tuning system is described for automatically tuning a musical instrument having adjustment means for changing the frequency of a musical tone produced by the instrument. The tuning system is useful with respect to a wide variety of musical instruments, e.g., stringed instruments such as guitars, harps, pianoes, etc.; horns; and other instruments. The tuning system is capable of automatically tuning all strings of a stringed instrument simultaneously.
Images(5)
Previous page
Next page
Claims(18)
What is claimed is:
1. A system for automatically tuning a stringed musical instrument by changing the frequency of a musical tone produced by each string of said instrument; said system comprising:
(a) a detection means adapted to detect a musical tone produced by said instrument and produce a signal;
(b) converter means adapted to convert said signal to a digital signal;
(c) processing means adapted to convert said digital signal to a frequency signal;
(d) comparator means for comparing said frequency signal to a predetermined frequency value and producing an electrical signal;
(e) tension adjustment means comprising a pivotable tune lever arm means connected to said string for adjusting the tension on said string;
(f) motor means activated by said electrical signal; wherein said motor means is operably connected to said adjustment means for adjusting said frequency to correspond with said predetermined value; and
(g) bias means connected to said tension adjustment means for providing a bias force in opposition to the force exerted on said tension adjustment means by said string.
2. A tuning system in accordance with claim 1, wherein said instrument includes a plurality of strings; wherein said adjustment means comprises a plurality of pivotable tune lever arms corresponding to the number of said strings to be tuned; wherein there are a plurality of said detection means corresponding to the number of said strings to be tuned; wherein there are a plurality of said motor means, each of which is operably connected to a said tune lever arm; and wherein all said strings to be tuned are tuned simultaneously.
3. A tuning system in accordance with claim 2, wherein said instrument is a guitar; and wherein said motor means comprises a stepper motor.
4. A tuning system in accordance with claim 1, wherein said detection means comprises a magnetic pickup.
5. A tuning system in accordance with claim 1, wherein said detection means comprises a transducer.
6. A tuning system in accordance with claim 1, wherein said processing means for converting said digital signal to a frequency signal includes the use of a time-to-frequency domain transformation algorithm.
7. A tuning system in accordance with claim 1, wherein said detection means comprises magnetic pole members defining a gap therebetween adjacent said string, an electric coil in operative association with one of said pole members, and a source of D.C. voltage connected to said coil, whereby a static magnetic field is created across said gap.
8. A tuning system in accordance with claim 3, further comprising compensating means for compensating for non-linear effects of said instrument.
9. A tuning system in accordance with claim 1, wherein said bias means provides a said bias force which counterbalances the force exerted on said tension adjustment means by said string.
10. A tuning system in accordance with claim 1, wherein said bias means comprises a coiled spring.
11. A tuning system in accordance with claim 1, further comprising calibration means for computing the relationship between said frequency signal and the tension on said string.
12. A tuning system for automatically tuning a musical instrument having a plurality of strings, said instrument comprising:
(a) detection means adapted to detect a musical tone produced by each said string and produce a signal corresponding to each said tone;
(b) converter means adapted to convert each said signal to a digital signal;
(c) processing means adapted to convert each said digital signal to a frequency signal;
(d) comparator means for comparing each said frequency signal to a separate predetermined frequency value and producing an electrical signal corresponding to the difference between said frequency signal and said predetermined frequency value;
(e) tension adjustment means comprising a plurality of pivotable tune lever arms each of which is connected to a separate one of said strings for adjusting the tension on a said string;
(f) a plurality of motors each of which is activated by a said electrical signal; wherein each said motor is operably connected to a said tune lever arm for adjusting the frequency of a said string to correspond with said predetermined frequency value;
(g) a plurality of bias means each of which is connected to a said tune lever arm for providing a bias force in opposition to the force exerted on said tune lever arm by a said string; and
(h) calibration means for computing the relationship between said frequency signal and the tension on said string.
13. A tuning system in accordance with claim 12, wherein said instrument is a guitar; and wherein said detection means comprises a magnetic pickup.
14. A tuning system in accordance with claim 12, wherein said detection means comprises a transducer.
15. A tuning system in accordance with claim 12, wherein said processing means for converting said digital signal to a frequency signal includes the use of a fast Fourier transform.
16. A tuning system in accordance with claim 12, further comprising compensating means for compensating for non-linear effects of said instrument.
17. A tuning system in accordance with claim 12, wherein each said bias means provides a said bias force which counterbalances the force exerted on a said tune lever arm by a said string; and wherein each said bias means comprises a coiled spring.
18. A system for automatically tuning a stringed instrument by changing the frequency of a musical tone produced by each string of said instrument; said system comprising:
(a) a detection means adapted to detect a musical tone produced by said instrument and produce a signal;
(b) converter means adapted to convert said signal to a digital signal;
(c) processing means adapted to convert said digital signal to a frequency signal;
(d) comparator means for comparing said frequency signal to a predetermined frequency value and producing an electrical signal;
(e) tension adjustment means comprising a pivotable tune lever arm means connected to said string for adjusting the tension on said string;
(f) motor means activated by said electrical signal; wherein said motor means is operably connected to said adjustment means for adjusting said frequency to correspond with said predetermined value; and
(g) calibration means for computing the relationship between said frequency signal and the tension on said string.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a continuation-in-part of our copending application Ser. No. 07/128,685 filed Dec. 4, 1987, now U.S. Pat. No. 4,803,908.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to tuning of musical instruments. More particularly, this invention relates to techniques for automatically tuning musical instruments. In another aspect, this invention relates to techniques and systems for automatically tuning stringed musical instruments.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Tuning of musical instruments is a difficult and tedious yet very necessary procedure for musicians. This is especially true when two or more instruments must be tuned to play at the same time. For example, musicians in an orchestra or a band must have their instruments in tune with each other, and tuned properly, before they can play music together. An even larger complication arises when the musicians or artists attempt to change to and from keys having different base interval relationships.

At times a group of musicians will start playing a song only to realize that one of the group needs to tune his or her instrument. Then a decision must be made to either continue playing out of tune or to stop, tune the instrument, and re-start. If this happens in front of an audience it can be very embarrassing. Of course, there is no guarantee that the state of tune will be any better following re-tuning. Furthermore, the time lost in re-tuning can be irritating to everyone.

Some musical instruments can be tuned in a number of ways. For example, the guitar has many different "open tunings" and "modal tunings", each of which has special advantages for playing certain songs. The performer usually does not want to retune during a performance so he brings to the stage a guitar for each tuning he will use. Each such guitar must be separately tuned and must be maintained in that condition up to the time it is played. For several different tunings, this procedure necessitates having several different guitars. This can be quite costly, and it also requires the performer to take the time to change guitars during a performance.

Furthermore, stringed instruments can change enough during a performance to go out of tune. This may be caused by a variety of factors such as humidity, temperature, and continued stress on the strings during playing.

Some musicians are better than others in tuning an instrument. As a result, some musicians are able to tune an instrument correctly in a reasonable period of time, while others (e.g. inexperienced musicians) may require a long period of time to tune and may not be entirely accurate in doing so.

Although there has been previously proposed a tuning apparatus (see, for example, U.S. Pat. No. 4,088,052) to detect the pitch in a stringed instrument electronically, such apparatus is not capable of automatically tuning the instrument. Furthermore, such apparatus can only tune one string at a time. There is also the possibility of error introduced by the mechanical portion of the system. Moreover, the apparatus uses analog filtering which has inherent limitations.

It is also necessary for the string being tuned to be vibrating during the entire tuning process. Another limitation of this apparatus is that it cannot compensate for the effects of neck warpage etc. during tuning of a guitar, for example.

Other types of tuning devices and tuning apparatus are disclosed in the following patents: U.S. Pat. No. 4,196,652 (Raskin); U.S. Pat. No. 4,207,791 (Murakami); U.S. Pat. No. 4,313,361 (Deutsch); U.S. Pat. No. 4,327,623 (Mochida); U.S. Pat. No. 4,426,907 (Scholz); U.S. Pat. No. 4,584,923 (Minnick); U.S. Pat. No. 3,144,802 (Faber); U.S. Pat. No. 4,044,239 (Shimauchi); and U.S. Pat. No. 4,732,071 (Deutsch).

Each of the prior devices and apparatus exhibit various disadvantages and limitations, however. The primary disadvantage of the prior tuning devices is that they utilize analog filtering of interfering signals to determine the frequencies generated by the instrument. This is not very precise. Furthermore, in an analog system the frequencies must be excited during the entire tuning process.

All of these prior devices are relatively slow in tuning. A device which tunes one string at a time must iterate several times to compensate for non-linear components. Also, none of such devices provide for friction in the nut or bridge. Locations of friction in a guitar or the like are the bridge and/or nut and the tuning peg mechanism. At the bridge or nut a string will move in short spurts due to differences between the coefficients of static and kinetic friction. That is, once a string begins to move it moves further than desired during tuning. The tuning peg mechanism involves considerable friction.

Further, none of the prior devices provide compensation for non-linear effects in stringed instruments. Non-linear effects include factors such as temperature changes and neck warpage. Nor do any of the prior devices have versatility which enables expansion for interfacing several instruments simultaneously.

For example, several of such devices are only capable of tuning one string at a time. Other devices have inadequate visual readout. Some devices do not relate to tuning of stringed instruments. Some of the devices are only capable of tuning to equal temperament, and some are only capable of tuning to predetermined frequencies with no variation possible. Also, the possibility of human error still exists with respect to the use of certain devices.

Certain of the devices are capable of tuning a string only when the string is vibrating with enough amplitude to fall into the constraints of the electronic components included in the device. If the amplitude of the signal is not great enough to enable the electronics involved, then the string cannot be tuned at all until the string is re-excited.

Further, certain of the devices use inadequate filtering techniques. Analog filters introduce phase errors into the filtered frequency. When the reference frequency is compared to the filtered frequency errors can occur because there is a phase difference in the two signals.

In yet another respect, some of the devices are mechanically complex and therefore are expensive and prone to unreliability due to mechanical failure and other causes.

One of the prior devices senses string tension as a means for changing the frequency. This technique has several inherent disadvantages. The number of vibrations per second is inversely proportional to the length of the string and the thickness of the string. It is also proportional to the square root of the tension to which the string is subjected. Finally, the number of vibrations is inversely proportional to the square root of the density of the string. The thickness or cross-sectional area of the string changes in character chiefly due to the stress on the string during playing. Because of the changes in the cross-sectional area the frequency is not in a perfectly linear relation to the tension. Consequently, the method of sensing tension is inferior.

None of the prior tuning devices or apparatus provide the advantages exhibited by the system and techniques of the present invention.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with the present invention there is provided a system for automatically tuning a musical instrument having adjustment means for changing the frequency of a musical tone produced by the instrument. The system comprises:

(a) a detection means adapted to detect a musical tone produced by said instrument and produce a signal;

(b) converter means adapted to convert said signal to a digital signal;

(c) processing means adapted to convert said digital signal to a frequency signal;

(d) comparator means for comparing said frequency signal to a predetermined frequency value and producing an electrical signal;

(e) tension adjustment means comprising a pivotable tune lever arm means connected to the string for adjusting the tension on the string;

(f) motor means activated by said electrical signal; wherein said motor means is operably connected to said adjustment means for adjusting said frequency to correspond with said predetermined value;

(g) biasing means connected to the tension adjustment means for providing a bias force in opposition to the force on the tension adjustment means by the string; and

(h) optionally, calibration means for computing the relationship between the frequency signal, the tension on the string, and the position of the motor.

The system includes compensating means for correcting for non-linear effects of the instrument, such as warpage, temperature, and humidity. The compensating means can also correct for linear effects.

The tuning system of the invention is useful in connection with a wide variety of musical instruments, including stringed and non-stringed instruments. For example, it is useful for tuning guitars, harps, pianos, horns, etc.

The tuning system is capable of automatically tuning all strings of an instrument simultaneously in a rapid and efficient manner. Prior tuning systems have not provided this capability.

The present invention also provides an improved mechanical system for adjusting the tension of a string in a stringed instrument. This system in one embodiment includes a spring or other bias means for balancing or reducing the load on a tune arm to which the motor is connected so as to reduce the load on the motor. This allows smaller motors to be used in the system, and thrust bearings are not required. It also simplifies the design of the moment arms.

The system of the present invention also enables all strings in a multi-stringed instrument to lie in a single plane.

Other advantages of the system of this invention will be apparent from the following detailed description and the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention is described in more detail hereinafter with reference to the accompanying drawings, wherein like reference characters refer to the same parts throughout the several views and in which:

FIG. 1 is a block diagram illustrating the tuning system of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is an isometric drawing illustrating one embodiment of an automatic tuning assembly of this invention as incorporated into a six-string guitar;

FIG. 3 is a side view of the tuning assembly shown in FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is a side elevational view of a tuning lever useful in the system of this invention;

FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of the tune lever assembly shown in FIGS. 2 and 3, taken along vertical plane passing through each tune lever arm; and

FIG. 6 is an end view illustrating a preferred type of transducer which is useful in the present invention to detect a musical tone produced by a string.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Tuning of an instrument such as a stringed instrument involves tightening each string so that it exhibits a particular frequency signal when in motion. The exact frequency which is desired to be produced or generated by each string is dependent upon the type of tuning performed. For example, an instrument can be tuned to a "true" scale or a "tempered" scale. The frequency intervals between each string on each of these different scales are different but are nevertheless related to each other by specific ratios.

When an instrument is not in proper tune, it means that one or more of the strings is not vibrating at the proper or intended frequency. The ratios between the fundamental frequencies on the true scale are supposed to be small whole numbers. Whenever one or more of the strings is out of proper tune the resulting sound of the instrument may be referred to as dissonant. This is very displeasing, especially if the strings are significantly out of tune.

If the automatic tuning system of this invention the frequencies generated by the instrument in a state of open tune, for example, are sampled and determined. Then, using a table or relationship of the correct frequencies for the instrument, an error for each frequency generated by the instrument is determined. The error signal is applied to an electromechanical system which then brings each string to a new state of tuning. For non-stringed instruments the electromechanical system may move a slide, for example, to change the frequency.

The process of sampling the frequencies generated by the instrument may be repeated as often as needed to allow compensating means to correct for linear and non-linear effects. The compensating means comprises a computer algorithm which is updated during each sampling regarding any linear or non-linear behavior of the instrument during tuning. Following complete algorithm updating, any different predetermined state of tuning may be achieved by requesting the electromechanical system to alter the frequencies of the strings. Virtually any parameter which effects the state of tuning of a musical instrument can be included in the computer based state equation for the instrument. As an example, the effect of temperature change during long outdoor performances can be determined and used in the tuning system. The system of the invention can be used not only for open tuning, but also for tempered, true or modal tuning.

The system being described herein may be applied to many musical instruments.

FIG. 1 is a block diagram illustrating the automatic tuning system of this invention. As one example, the tuning system may be used in connection with a stringed instrument such as a guitar. Once the strings are excited one or more transducers (such as magnetic pickups), detect musical tones produced by the guitar and produce signals which are converted to digital signals by a conventional analog-to-digital converter. Then the digital signals are transferred to a computer which processes the signals using a time-to-frequency domain transformation algorithm, such as periodicity determination in the time domain or a Fourier transform (FT), for example, to convert the signals to frequency signals. Then the computer compares the frequency signals to predetermined frequency values or uses the computer algorithm to produce corresponding electrical signals. Then each electrical signal activates a motor (e.g., a stepper motor) which is operably connected to adjustment means for adjusting the frequency of the corresponding string to correspond with the predetermined value. The tuning system is capable of tuning all strings of a stringed instrument simultaneously.

As an example of a typical application, the details of a system for guitar will be given where appropriate. The system will automatically adjust the frequency of a vibrating string on a musical instrument by changing the tension of the string using data gathered from a transducer coupled to the instrument. The system can be further adapted to adjust the frequency or frequencies of any musical device where there exists:

(1) a suitable means of transducing those frequencies for computer analysis, and

(2) a suitable means of transducing the results of the computer analysis to adjust the frequency or frequencies of the musical device.

Thus, the tuning system of the invention can also be used in connection with other instruments such as a horn, or a harp, or a piano, for example. This is also illustrated in the schematic of FIG. 1. For example, a horn can include a slide mechanism which allows for changing of the frequency of a musical tone produced by the horn. Also, the tuning instrument may be used in connection with a harp or piano.

Various types of detection means may be used to detect the musical tone produced by a musical instrument and produce a corresponding analog signal. For example, any conventional transducer may be used. Thus, there may be used a magnetic pickup for some types of instruments; a microphone; a piezoelectric pickup; optical means; etc. These types of transducers are all useful in certain situations.

The system is described hereinafter with reference to the automatic tuning of a six string electric guitar.

DATA ACQUISITION

The signals from the six magnetic pickups 45 (shown in FIGS. 2, 3 and 6), each of which is adjusted so as to transduce the signal from a respective string 17 of the guitar, are fed to an analog to digital convertor (ADC). As shown in FIG. 6, each pickup 45 includes magnetic pole sections or members 45A and 45B (e.g., of a conventional magnetic tape head) used in a novel configuration. The electric coil 46 encircles one of the pole sections and is energized with a positive D.C. voltage, thereby producing a static magnetic field 47 across and in the near vicinity of the gap between the pole sections, as illustrated. As the string 17 vibrates it cuts the lines of force 47, thereby producing a signal in the coil which is amplified by an AC amplifier 52 coupled to the electric coil through a capacitor 50. This arrangement exhibits a degree of selectivity for individual string signals while more than one string is vibrating which is superior to a normal six coil magnetic pickup. The amplified signal is then fed to the analong-to-digital convertor, as illustrated. The signal must be amplified and filtered between the magnetic pickup and the ADC with the following general requirements:

(1) the signals must be between half and full scale on the ADC during acquisition, and,

(2) frequencies greater than the fundamental frequency of each string be effectively attenuated.

Special limiting circuitry may be used if necessary, to provide a signal of the proper amplification. Filtering is required to remove harmonics and upper partials which produce unwanted (a) "alias" frequencies according to the Nyquist sampling theorem, and (b) difference frequencies which appear in the desired spectrum of the guitar. Filtering of 12 to 24 db per octave rolloff starting at a point 10% above a strings's frequency will be adequate.

The data will be acquired starting shortly after all the strings have been set in motion with a "strum". Each string's signal will be acquired until a preset number of points have been read with no points exceeding a preset threshold. Each string's threshold can be different. In this way, differences in string amplitude due to unequal strumming are removed. This also allows acquisition of string signals at different times following the strum according to each string's relaxation. While the smaller strings tend to relax quickly producing stable frequencies shortly after a strum, the larger strings require longer relaxation before frequency stability is achieved.

To encompass an acquisition window 10% greater than the highest frequency possible, 392 Hz+39 Hz=431 Hz is required. To define a sinusoidal wave, a minimum of two points per cycle must be acquired (Nyquist sampling theorum). Doubling 431 Hz to 862 points/second gives a data acquisition rate of 1.16 milliseconds/point. An acquisition data array of 512 points requiring just over 0.5 seconds is adequate.

COMPUTER ANALYSIS

After the data has been acquired, a transformation is performed by the computer (either contained within the guitar or existing as an outboard computer) shifting the data from the time domain (in which it was acquired) to the frequency domain. By transforming the time domain data into the frequency domain, the frequency data for each string emerges from that of the others in such a way that the computer can easily determine the frequency of each string. The transformation is called the fast Fourier transform (FFT) developed by Cooley and Tukey in 1965. The analysis of the frequency data will require an array of at least 4096 points giving a resolution of at least 431 Hz/4096 points=0.105 Hz/point. To achieve this array size, the 512 data points acquired may be "zero filled " out to 4096. This adds no new information to the data. The result is that more points define the "peaks" for each string making the frequency determination process more precise.

Following the FFT, the computer determines the frequency of each string, compares this value with the currently requested value for that string, and determines the correction, if any, to be applied. Alternatively, the correction can come from a system of equations determined by the computer during an earlier calibration of the instrument. This calibration can be performed by the computer which computes the relationship between the frequency signal and the tension on the string, and the position of the motor.

The correction is in the form of the number of steps and the direction of rotation to be delivered to a stepper motor. The shaft of the stepper motor is connected to a tune lever for the string via a threaded teflon nut 28. A preferred system is shown in FIGS. 2, 3 and 4. A cross-sectional view of the tune lever assembly is shown in FIG. 5.

ELECTROMECHANICAL STRING ADJUSTMENT

Thus, there is shown an electromechanical system 10 for incorporation into a guitar for selective adjustment of the tension of the separate strings to adjust the frequency thereof. Bridge assembly 12 is secured to the main body of the electromechanical system 10 at bracket 44 in such a way that it occupies the normal bridge position on the guitar when the electromechanical system is mounted in the guitar body. This assembly includes base 14 which carries several individual rollers 16. The height of base 14 is adjusted relative to the face of the guitar using bridge height adjustment screw 14A. Each roller supports a single string 17 of the guitar at the tail end. The rollers 16 rotate freely so as to impart minimal friction to movement of the strings as they are tightened or loosened. Base 14 also supports the magnetic pickups 45 positioned under the strings 17, as illustrated.

Tail piece or tune lever assembly 20 is secured in a recessed area in the guitar. Assembly 20 comprises a plurality of individual tune lever arms 22 pivotably supported on individual shafts or axles 24 extending transversely through the upper end of respective tune lever arms 22. A separate fork-shaped support element 26 supports each individual axle 24 for each tune lever arm 22. All of the support elements 26 are fastened securely to L-shaped support member 27 (shown in FIG. 3) which is adapted to be fastened to the guitar base.

The upper end of each lever arm 22 includes a free rotating inside roller 23A, 23B, 23C, 23D, 23E and 23F, respectively, as shown in FIG. 5. A string 17 extends over each such roller. Sleeves 21B, 21C, 21D, 21E and 21F are disposed around rollers 23B through 23F, respectively, and have different diameters and pivot points such that the string contact point of all rollers are in the same plane. This allows similar angular movement of each lever 22 to move each string a different linear distance to produce similar musical changes in the frequencies generated by the strings. The position of each axle 24 in a respective tune lever arm varies according to the radius of each sleeve member used on each such roller.

To reduce friction at the upper end of each tune lever, miniature ball bearings 24A support each end of each axle or shaft 24, as illustrated.

To lower end of each lever arm 22 includes a threaded pivot pin or nut 28 which is adapted to engage a threaded shaft 30 controlled by stepper motor 32. A mounting plate 34 is secured to each stepper motor and serves as a means for mounting each motor to a hanger mount 36 with pins 35 in the recessed area of the guitar in a manner such that the motor can pivot slightly. Each mount 36 is fastened to plate 37. The end of each string 17 is secured to or captured by holder 25 on each lever arm 22. Motor 32 and associated shaft or lead screw 30 are mounted in a hanger 36 with pin 35 at the center of mass of the motor to reduce orientational problems with the motor and lead screw operation as the instrument is played.

A link member 40 is connected at one end 40A to the upper portion of tune lever arm 22 by means of pin 41. The opposite end 40B of link 40 is connected to a coiled spring 42 which in turn is attached to threaded bolt or fastener 43 carried by anchor or bracket 44. The tension provided by spring 42 may be adjusted by means of nut 43A on bolt 43.

The effect of the coiled spring 42 (or other equivalent bias means) and link member 40 is to counter-balance the moment produced by string 17 by urging tune lever arm 22 to pivot relative to axle 24. This reduces the load on each stepper motor 32. As a result, the size and power of each stepper motor may be smaller than would otherwise be required.

FIG. 4 shows that the location of the spring anchor 41 relative to the tune lever pivot point 24 varies on each arm. The location of the spring anchor point is dimensioned using the angle "theta" and the radius "R" (which is the distance between the center of pivot 24 to the center of anchor 41). By computing the force and distance characteristics of each string the spring anchor 41 is located so as to maximally cancel the moment produced by said string on the lever arm 22.

Thus, upon receipt of an electrical signal from the computer, each stepper motor rotates a corresponding shaft 30 in order to pivot a lever arm 22. This causes the corresponding string 17 to be either loosened or tightened, as required, to adjust it to the desired frequency.

Because a general purpose computer system is used in the decision making process, information regarding such things as the interaction among the strings as they are tuned can be included. An example of this is the "neck bowing" caused by the change in tension of the string being tuned. This causes a change in the tension of strings not being tuned resulting in an unwanted change in their frequencies. These kinds of interactions are all well documented in the musical literature to the extent that many have complete equations describing their effects. Utilizing this information, the movement of all the strings to their correct frequencies can be done all at once rather than the more lengthy "trial and error" procedure used previously.

To eliminate detailed consideration of these and other algorithms, the system will "calibrate" the guitar before each playing by allowing the computer system to measure all the effects possible. One could use a small, computer controlled "strummer" allowing the computer to automatically go through a series of tests by setting up the data acquisition, actuating the "strummer", collecting the data, updating its total algorithm, then looping through the analysis until the calibration process is complete. Following this, the "tuning" of the guitar could be changed to any predetermined state using the calibration algorithm without further need of recalibration. Examples are the "open" tunings, tempered tuning, just tuning in musical pitch, and varying the pitch of any of these tuning modes by four half steps up or down during the playing of a song.

The connection to the stepper motors is a very simple digital pulse interface common to most computers. When the system determines the correct number of steps for each motor, these steps are sent as transistor-transistor logic (TTL) level pulses over the digital lines to each motor using standard TTL techniques. The system may include means for first "loading" a pulse count into all motor controllers followed by a "go" command such that all motors move in unison.

CALIBRATION

System calibration is achieved using standard mathematical techniques in linear algebra and statistics including curvilinear regression and matrix diagonalization.

First, a data set is acquired which represents the interactions among all motors, all strings, and all linear and non-linear contributions to tuning in the system. Such a data set is accumulated in the following manner: All six motors are moved to one end of their respective ranges. The frequencies of all six strings are recorded as well as the positions of the six motors. Then one motor is moved half way along its range while the other five remain constant. The six frequencies and motor positions are again recorded. A second move of this same motor to its full range is recorded in similar fashion. Then the other five motors are moved and the data recorded in the same way.

The data set then contains enough information to characterize the relationships among all frequencies (tensions) of all the strings. The frequency of each string has been recorded for three motor positions (string tensions) of each string while all other motors remain fixed.

This is enough data to determine a second order relationship amongst motor positions and frequencies for all strings. Standard curvilinear regression is done on the data set producing six equations, one for the position of each motor as a function of all six string frequencies and their squares. It then becomes a simple matter for the computer system to insert the frequencies for each of the six strings associated with a certain tuning into the system of equations from which the six motor positions are then derived.

It can then readily be seen that even when only one of the six frequencies is changed in this way, a significant motor movement is produced on all strings, a large movement for the string whose frequency is changing and smaller, yet non-zero changes on the other strings. These smaller changes on the strings whose frequencies are not changing are the "corrections" the system calculates to counteract the effect of changing one string's frequency while the others remain constant. These corrections constitute a major component of the non-linear compensation this system provides in automatically tuning a musical instrument.

When the musician discovers that his instrument is no longer in tune following a period of use since the last calibration, a "touch-up" operation should be all that is necessary to bring the system back into calibration. This assumes that the changes predicted by the first and second order terms in frequency for each motor still apply and that all predictions for motor position are off by a constant. To "touch-up" the calibration, a single data set of six frequencies and six motor positions is determined anywhere in the range of the system. This data set is then used to adjust the constant terms in each motor equation. In practice, this has worked quite well. Seldom will a complete recalibration be necessary even when strings are changed unless the new strings are significantly different from the old strings (i.e., unless the new strings differ in cross-section or in composition).

Other variants are possible without departing from the scope of this invention.

Patent Citations
Cited PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US3144802 *Jun 1, 1961Aug 18, 1964Faber Jr Lawrence PTuning apparatus
US4044239 *Feb 24, 1976Aug 23, 1977Nippon Gakki Seizo Kabushiki KaishaMethod and apparatus for adjusting vibration frequency of vibrating object
US4088052 *Nov 2, 1976May 9, 1978Hedrick W DavidString instrument tuning apparatus
US4196652 *Dec 16, 1976Apr 8, 1980Jef RaskinDigital electronic tuner
US4207791 *Jun 16, 1978Jun 17, 1980Kabushiki Kaisha Kawai Gakki SeisakushoAutomatic tuning device
US4313361 *Mar 28, 1980Feb 2, 1982Kawai Musical Instruments Mfg. Co., Ltd.Digital frequency follower for electronic musical instruments
US4327623 *Mar 31, 1980May 4, 1982Nippon Gakki Seizo Kabushiki KaishaReference frequency signal generator for tuning apparatus
US4426907 *Sep 30, 1982Jan 24, 1984Scholz Donald TAutomatic tuning device
US4584923 *Mar 5, 1985Apr 29, 1986Minnick Gregory BSelf tuning tail piece for string instruments
US4732071 *Feb 13, 1987Mar 22, 1988Kawai Musical Instrument Mfg. Co., LtdTuning indicator for musical instruments
Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US5009142 *Mar 26, 1990Apr 23, 1991Kurtz Noel TMeans and method for automatic resonance tuning
US5038657 *Jul 2, 1990Aug 13, 1991Busley Bradford MString tensioning apparatus for a musical instrument
US5095797 *Dec 18, 1990Mar 17, 1992Zacaroli Edward CAutomatic tone control for stringed musical instruments
US5323680 *May 29, 1992Jun 28, 1994Miller Mark DDevice and method for automatically tuning a stringed musical instrument
US5343793 *Oct 6, 1992Sep 6, 1994Michael PattieAutomatically tuned musical instrument
US5390579 *Jun 25, 1991Feb 21, 1995Torque Talk LimitedTuning of musical instruments
US5528970 *Jan 19, 1995Jun 25, 1996Zacaroli; Edward C.Tone control for stringed musical instrument
US5767429 *Nov 9, 1995Jun 16, 1998Milano; Lynn M.Automatic string instrument tuner
US5808218 *Nov 20, 1996Sep 15, 1998Grace; Charles H.Expressive musical instrument with which accurate pitch can be played easily
US5824929 *Jul 12, 1996Oct 20, 1998Transperformance, LlcMusical instrument self-tuning system with calibration library
US5859378 *Jul 12, 1996Jan 12, 1999Transperformance LlcMusical instrument self-tuning system with capo mode
US5877443 *Feb 12, 1997Mar 2, 1999Peterson Elecro-Musical Products, Inc.Strobe tuner
US5886270 *Apr 4, 1997Mar 23, 1999Wynn; David S.Electormechanical tuner for stringed instruments
US5977467 *Jul 12, 1996Nov 2, 1999Transperformance, LlcFrequency display for an automatically tuned stringed instrument
US6066790 *Jul 12, 1996May 23, 2000Freeland; Stephen J.Multiple frequency display for musical sounds
US6278047Apr 6, 2000Aug 21, 2001Todd CumberlandApparatus for tuning stringed instruments
US6437226Mar 7, 2001Aug 20, 2002Viking Technologies, Inc.Method and system for automatically tuning a stringed instrument
US6465723Mar 7, 2001Oct 15, 2002Lynn M. MilanoAutomatic string instrument tuner kit
US6548938Jan 29, 2001Apr 15, 2003Viking Technologies, L.C.Apparatus having a pair of opposing surfaces driven by a piezoelectric actuator
US6717332Jan 29, 2001Apr 6, 2004Viking Technologies, L.C.Apparatus having a support structure and actuator
US6737788Feb 20, 2003May 18, 2004Viking Technologies, L.C.Apparatus having a pair of opposing surfaces driven by a piezoelectric actuator
US6759790Mar 27, 2002Jul 6, 2004Viking Technologies, L.C.Apparatus for moving folded-back arms having a pair of opposing surfaces in response to an electrical activation
US6836056Feb 5, 2001Dec 28, 2004Viking Technologies, L.C.Linear motor having piezo actuators
US6870305May 14, 2004Mar 22, 2005Viking Technologies, L.C.Apparatus for moving a pair of opposing surfaces in response to an electrical activation
US6879087Feb 6, 2002Apr 12, 2005Viking Technologies, L.C.Apparatus for moving a pair of opposing surfaces in response to an electrical activation
US6975061Nov 24, 2004Dec 13, 2005Viking Technologies, L.C.Apparatus for moving a pair of opposing surfaces in response to an electrical activation
US6995311Mar 31, 2003Feb 7, 2006Stevenson Alexander JAutomatic pitch processing for electric stringed instruments
US7435895 *Jan 8, 2007Oct 14, 2008Yamaha CorporationAutomatic playing system used for musical instruments and computer program used therein for self-teaching
US7446248Aug 18, 2005Nov 4, 2008Transperformance, LlcApparatus and method for self-tuning stringed musical instruments with an accompanying vibrato mechanism
US7534950Jul 11, 2006May 19, 2009Lyles Cosmos MStringed instrument that maintains relative tune
US7534955Mar 17, 2005May 19, 2009Tectus AnstaltDevice and method for adjusting the tension of a string of a stringed instrument
US7541528Mar 15, 2007Jun 2, 2009Cosmos LylesStringed musical instrument using spring tension
US7564171Jun 20, 2005Jul 21, 2009Parker-Hannifin CorporationApparatus and process for optimizing work from a smart material actuator product
US7592528Mar 15, 2007Sep 22, 2009Cosmos LylesStringed musical instrument using spring tension
US7659467 *Mar 24, 2005Feb 9, 2010Tectus AnstaltDevice for adjusting the tension of the strings of a guitar or of a bass
US7678982 *Jan 19, 2005Mar 16, 2010Tectus AnstaltDevice and method for automatic tuning of a string instrument in particular a guitar
US7692079Jan 11, 2008Apr 6, 2010Intune Technologies, LlcStringed musical instrument
US7692085 *Mar 17, 2005Apr 6, 2010Tectus AnstaltDevice for adjusting the tension of the strings of a stringed instrument
US7786373Jan 19, 2005Aug 31, 2010Tectus AnstaltDevice and method for automatically tuning a stringed instrument, particularly a guitar
US7842869Jan 27, 2005Nov 30, 2010Tectus AnstaltString instrument with improved acoustic properties and fixing plate for fixing one end of the strings of a guitar
US7851686 *Sep 9, 2009Dec 14, 2010Benjamin DavidsonTuning a musical instrument
US7855330Jan 19, 2009Dec 21, 2010Intune Technologies LlcModular bridge for stringed musical instrument
US7858865 *Oct 14, 2008Dec 28, 2010D Arco DanielTuning stabilizer for stringed instrument
US7888570 *Aug 18, 2009Feb 15, 2011Intune Technologies, LlcStringed musical instrument using spring tension
US7935876Jan 16, 2008May 3, 2011John Raymond WestMethod and apparatus for string load reduction and real-time pitch alteration on stringed instruments
US8110733Nov 1, 2010Feb 7, 2012D Arco DanielTuning stabilizer for stringed instrument
US8194893Sep 26, 2008Jun 5, 2012Lewis Peter GWired in-ear monitor system
US8779258Jan 18, 2013Jul 15, 2014Intune Technologies, LlcStringed musical instrument using spring tension
US20140069258 *Sep 10, 2013Mar 13, 2014Overtone Labs, Inc.Timpani tuning and pitch control system
EP0839370A1 *Jul 12, 1996May 6, 1998Transperformance L.L.C.Multiple frequency display for musical sounds
WO1991015011A1 *Mar 22, 1991Sep 27, 1991Noel T KurtzMeans and method for automatic resonance tuning
WO2003012774A1 *Nov 26, 2001Feb 13, 2003Modugno MarcelloAn electronic device for automatically tuning guitars and other music instruments
WO2005114647A1Mar 24, 2005Dec 1, 2005Christopher AdamsDevice for adjusting the tension of the strings of a guitar or of a bass
WO2006076928A2 *Jan 19, 2005Jul 27, 2006Christopher AdamsMethod for automatically tuning a string instrument, particularly an electric guitar
Classifications
U.S. Classification84/454, 84/DIG.18, 984/260
International ClassificationG10G7/02
Cooperative ClassificationY10S84/18, G10G7/02
European ClassificationG10G7/02
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Nov 13, 2008ASAssignment
Owner name: AXCENT TUNING SYSTEMS, LLC, COLORADO
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:TRANSPERFORMANCE, LLC;REEL/FRAME:021824/0651
Effective date: 20081107
Sep 20, 2001FPAYFee payment
Year of fee payment: 12
Nov 30, 1998ASAssignment
Owner name: TRANSPERFORMANCE, LLC, COLORADO
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:TRANSPERFORMANCE, INC.;REEL/FRAME:009614/0342
Effective date: 19980823
Sep 15, 1997FPAYFee payment
Year of fee payment: 8
Sep 2, 1997CCCertificate of correction
Jun 13, 1996ASAssignment
Owner name: TRANSPERFORMANCE INC., COLORADO
Free format text: LETTER AGREEMENT;ASSIGNOR:SKINN, FREDERICK A.;REEL/FRAME:007978/0320
Effective date: 19890328
Sep 7, 1993FPAYFee payment
Year of fee payment: 4
Jan 12, 1989ASAssignment
Owner name: TRANSPERFORMANCE INC., A COLORADO CORP., COLORADO
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST.;ASSIGNORS:SKINN, NEIL C.;FREELAND, STEPHEN J.;REEL/FRAME:005019/0238
Effective date: 19890112